PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

The Mailing List Thing (part 1)

on September 18, 2014

Bit more of an open question. I asked for thoughts about the Mailing list thing – from both pro/anti-GGs, and neutral folks too. These are what I received.

@Tuckerism: “I don’t like the thought of people across multiple publications discussing and applying pressure to cover the same story at the same angle. If you feel it’s more egregious, you could even call it shaping the narrative. Let’s be honest, if one site says “ABC sucks”, you can dismiss it or probably find another site that disagrees. When 10 sites go “ABC sucks”, there is a lot of influence placed in those words. The problem is now that I cannot trust the narrative from these sites. There is now another legitimate possibility; that certain individuals have pressured or suggested that something be discussed / not discussed across publications. The cross-pollination of information, suggestions, peer pressure, agendas, freelancing, etc. has completely eroded any trust that I have in these people to approach things fairly. Above everything else that has come up in #GamerGate, I need to be able to trust what I’m reading; otherwise, it’s worthless drivel that has no value to me. I’m not saying that they should give a damn about having my trust, but if they break that trust with enough people, they don’t have a business.” [PixieJenni note: bolding by respondent]


@ironpenciljames: “To me, this is a non-story. It’s a mailing list, not a secret society. Everyone is claiming that the emails prove that people were trying to censor discussion because it made them look bad. But all I see is people trying to figure out whether they should allow the discussion to continue at the precise moment that it revolved almost entirely around harassing and posting the private information of one woman. Plenty of sites have since allowed discussion on GamerGate to happen, but ‘gaters are upset that it was “censored” while the main talking points were “Quinn is awful, everyone tell her how much you hate her and also here’s her address and a list of guys she allegedly had sex with”. This latest outrage is almost a caricature of #GamerGate as a whole: start with a conclusion, dig up as much “evidence” as possible, and declare that the evidence proves the conclusion regardless of whether it actually does or not. Finally, the fact that BREITBART, of all places, is being championed as a model of unbiased journalistic integrity simply for writing what the ‘gaters want is honestly too ridiculous to even take seriously. For those unfamiliar, Breitbart has always been a wellspring of the type of lowest-common-denominator far-right conservative hateful outrage that has come to dominate political discourse in the past decade. When they are the biggest ally in your corner, it is a sure sign that you have made a wrong turn somewhere.”


Anon1: “From what I see there’s not much there, people are making it far more insidious that it actually is. From the stuff that has been posted it seems like it’s what most anti-gaters though, they just didn’t really consider it a news story and though the harassment was a bigger issue. The fact journalist not even mentioned in the article are saying they were apart of it leads me to believe Milo’s latest threat about being more is a bluff or is just as benign as the first article.”


Anon2: “A private mailing list is not a problem per se, I suppose, but the apparent use of this mailing list to collude on what to cover and how to spin it is deeply worrying. Most damning in my opinion is Orland’s suggestion that a person’s harassment could be used as an “excuse” to promote their product. This obviously sets a terrible precedent, treats readers dishonestly and is an insult to those harassed.”


Anon3: “I can see how people who really want their fears of a secretive gaming cabal confirmed would read far too much into this latest reveal – not helped by a certain journalist – but it’s a nothing, a simple fact of any media industry blown out of proportion by deceptive reporting and a heaping helping of confirmation bias. It’s no more conspiracy than any industry conference. By all accounts it’s the exact same stuff they talk about on Twitter, just without bothering the public. It’s a small industry, they network and sometimes they spend an evening vigorously disagreeing with one another over semi-public communications. It’s probably not sinister (JournoList, its closest precedent, was also trotted out by Breitbart as “the liberal elites conspiring to destroy ______”, despite it mostly being aging Gen-Xers discussing punk bands), it’s definitely not illegal, and it’s nowhere near as scary as when Breitbart was involved in a similar right-wing strategy group which really did endeavour to co-ordinate multiple wings of the third and fourth estate around political goals: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/groundswell-rightwing-group-ginni-thomas
(Notice how similar its goal and function – of actively facilitating directed and co-ordinated political goals – is to, more than anything in this discussion, the burgerandfries IRC, and how both seemingly ended up projecting their knowledge of what they did onto a vitally different setup among their ideological competitors in order to condemn them).

I mean, it’s even obvious in the leak. Where they see orders from on high dictating how to frame a media campaign, any properly-adjusted person would see one guy giving his opinion on how to ethically report on a major issue that should be discussed while also respecting the wishes of the victim for her public life to not be publicised. Eventually he concludes that it’s probably fine for personal twitter but not okay for them to use their platforms to discuss it at that time. Because of course they’d want to talk about and condemn it. They probably all know women in the industry who get endless, vicious abuse hurled at them. They just want to figure out whether they’re crossing an ethical line in doing so. This is the real irony; the GG crowd have been demanding greater ethical constraints on journalists, and when they stumble upon an actual discussion of ethics – of the kind which happens constantly around game journos – they don’t know it when they see it and demand that it should stop.”


@strictmachine: “In general, the whole “revelation” of there being a sizable mailing list of games writers discussing content and whatnot is completely underwhelming. My first impression of the sort of thing going on there, even with the screenshots Milo posted, was that it was along the lines of the footage I saw of actual journalists discussing things in the press pen during Ferguson livestreams, or reporters conversing while waiting for a press conference. These people don’t live in bubbles, and much like the idea that devs, PR reps, and those providing coverage mingle, so too do reporters of all stripes hang out and talk about things. Whoop de doo.

The presentation of the article itself is fairly telling in its own way. As with several other “big” news items in the GG hashtag, there seems to be a necessity for building hype before actually delivering anything. Milo teased something that would make everyone in the tag go “fucking crazy” hours before the article went up, and the bobbleheads reiterating most of the other gg hype throughout the hashtag’s life thus far kept playing it up with a lot of “oh man, oh man” yammering. They did the same thing with a “tell-all” video on supposed corruption and an incorrect interpretation of the term “racketeering” regarding the IGF, teasing it for days leading up to its release. As an aside, that video and avenue of pursuit seem to have fallen by the wayside fairly quickly; guess one or more of the driving forces realized they were about to start a battle on multiple fronts, which history has shown us the usual result of.

As for the article itself, it’s a reflection of how weak a discovery this mailing list actually is. Even with Milo’s own highlights, the few screenshots provided merely show that those on the mailing list were against the attacks on Quinn and Sarkeesian. It tries to paint Ben Kuchera as some sort of ringleader for being outspoken in his support of Quinn, but doesn’t show much in the way of him actually chiding anyone for not joining him. To quote the article: “Ben Kuchera repeatedly pressures other journalists and editors to take down material on their websites that is critical of Zoe Quinn.” That’s a big claim to make without any screenshots to that effect, despite having shots that at least give something to trump up re: other claims.

Were that not enough, Milo compares the list to the JournoList “scandal” from 2010, a similar case in which a mailing list for 400+ left-wing journalists and academics was discovered and painted as a conspiracy by the right. Oh look, it’s more people who happen to be like-minded and discussing things. What a shocker. I’d not heard about this “scandal” before, even from much more politics-minded associates, so the impression I get is that it was also a whole lot of nothing. The only question re: ethics this whole thing raises is how Milo or anyone else at Breitbart got access to the mailing list in the first place. For some reason, it’s mentioned in the article with a link that takes you straight to a Google Groups page stating you must be a member to view or participate. Given Breitbart’s coverage and puffing up of Gamergate, in contrast to the disapproval of goings-on cited in the screenshots, it’s unlikely they would’ve been allowed in under anything but false pretenses. Something something ethics.”

Anon4: “After reading through the emails that were released from the GameJournoPros group, I do feel that they have conducted themselves in an unethical way. Journalists from competing websites getting together in private to come to a consensus among themselves about what they are and are not allowed to discuss is something that should not be happening. In Liana Kerzner’s interview with Sargon yesterday, she mentioned that this sort of thing is not uncommon in other forms of journalism, specifically in cases where someone’s life could be endangered or the outcome of a criminal trial would be influenced by unproven allegations. I fully understand that, but in this case, that is not what was happening. These journalists were coordinating with each other to suppress a story that was relevant to the gaming industry, specifically a game developer having improper personal relationships and financial ties to journalists which had never been disclosed. The only argument that could be made would be that reporting on the situation would have endangered the developer’s life, but the information was already out there – they would not be protecting her by refusing to report on it. In the emails, one journalist tells the others that they should not be “even allowing others to ruminate on it.” This journalist apparently believes that it is his job to police what his readers are allowed to think about, rather than to report on the facts as they are currently known. Another journalist repeatedly and aggressively tries to get another website to shut down discussion of the incident, saying “Don’t sit by and let your community be used to make gaming worse because of a technicality.” The technicality he is referring to is the fact that this discussion is relevant to the games industry and discussing it does not violate the terms of service for the website.

The emails also expose another issue: the degree to which these journalists have inappropriate relationships with the subjects they cover. During the discussion, they bring up the possibility of buying her a “feel better” gift (which they mention having done in the past) or sending her a letter of support. One journalist suggests that they “should just use this as an excuse to give more attention to her work.” Another even mentions that he “owe[s] her one.” We are left to wonder, “For what?” And so far, the answer from the gaming journalist community has been silence. Even if there is a perfectly good explanation for all of this, we as consumers of their product are owed that explanation.”

Anon5: “I see nothing illegal in it. But, it is worrying how they seem to be debating what is acceptable or not, when you combine it with members of the group saying he was close to being kicked out for disagreeing with the majority. That type of thing creates a conformity within the gamingpress that is dangerous for diversity of opinions. Also, the pressure Ben puts on Greg Tito, only ending to “maitain civility” is not good in several ways. One is continuing hounding Greg about it, the other is what Ben is trying to do, shut down one of the few forums we have to discuss it (with the censoring going on), one where proper moderation can be applied. And Ben’s opinion that because he doesn’t like what’s being said, people shouldn’t have the right to say it is frightening.

But there are good sides of this, people reminding them that there should be a certain distance between those being reported on. I only fear what would have happened if there were no one to say that. With Andrew Groen forgetting that she is not their colleague, but someone being reported on, Kyle wanting to cross the barrier from being reporters to being her support system, clearly crossing a professional barrier that should’t be crossed. And dancstarkey who “owe her one”. I think one of the few things that came out of the mailing list were them being reminded that they should act as professionals.”

Anon6: “The salient thing for me here is the notion of multiple journalists banding together to craft a joint narrative. If this bit was not revealed, the rest would have just been mostly harmless conversations between friends. I am perfectly capable of crafting narratives on my own and am not interested in people who are supposed to be the suppliers of objective information to impose their own narrative on me. The same applies to video game criticism. I am fine with each individual critic spinning their own honest narrative, so that i am able to view the same thing from different points of view. The notion of multiple videogame critics colluding to represent a single point of view i consider counterproductive at best – and actually more like harmful.”

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